“WHAT…IS…HAPPENING?!?” I screamed out this phrase about four or five times while watching this new contender for worst film of the year…that’s right, even worse than the awful remakes of The Grudge and Fantasy Island, and you want to know why? At least I knew what the fuck was going on in those movies, even though in the end I ultimately didn’t care for either of them. I had no idea what the fuck was going on in THE LAST THING HE WANTED until one critic decided to do some extra do diligence and publish an entire article explaining what was going on. And it took me awhile to find that article! (will post it on both my Facebook page and Twitter for those interested, fyi I read said article AFTER I had finished the movie to relax my lost brain). And the background of U.S. history not explained isn’t the only reason why I had no clue what was going on. The editing was choppy, the cliched dialogue certainly didn’t help, there was too much paranoia, too many back stabbings, and some key important events were not shown that just enhanced said confusion. It seemed to me that this film should’ve been about a half hour longer and it already clocks in at just under two! It is all even more disappointing considering the fact that writer/director Dee Rees last film, Mudbound, another original Netflix film, was freaking fantastic. This is a movie that you absolutely need to go out of your way to avoid if it hits your Netflix queue. It is one of the most absolute wastes of time I experienced, even more so than my pick for last year’s worst film, Cats.
You are probably wondering whether or not I can explain the movie to you…I can! But by way of borrowing and giving credit to IMDB.com and Wikipedia: “The story centers around Elena McMahon, a reporter for the Washington Post who quits her job covering the 1984 Presidential Election to care for her father after her mother’s death. In an unusual turn of events, she inherits his position as an arms dealer for the U.S. Government in Central America which makes her lose the thread of her own narrative and thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break.” Adapted some from fucking novel I’ll now never read. Look, if you want to know what is going on just a little bit BEFORE you start to watch this movie (if for some reason you are still interested in checking it out after my scathing review) know this: You need to know some of the background of the layered and complex history of the United States and its shady intervention in Central America during the Cold War. To borrow also from the article I’m about to post in the comments of this review: “the United States government was providing millions of dollars of military aid to the El Salvador government during the Salvadoran Civil War, because the El Salvador government was considered a Cold War ally. This means the U.S. directly contributed to the many civilian murders and human rights violations committed by the El Salvador armed forces.” So once you know all that, and combine it with the combined IMDB and Wikipedia summaries of the movie itself, maybe you’ll enjoy the film more?
But see, here’s the thing, if you want your audience invested in the movie, you can’t just assume the viewers are going to know that part of American history well. Yes, you’ll probably need some beginning scene that combines a montage with old archived footage with some background narration (possibly the protagonist), telling you what’s what. And yes, you might not want that because every other new movie that is released does that, but you know what? In a world where everybody is staring at their phones obsessing over social media posts, the likely hood they are going to use those mediums to search American history during the Cold War in the 1980s is slim to fucking none. To tell you the truth, it is cliched, yet a necessity in a movie like this. But what makes my observation even more confusing is that THE FILM STARTS AND ENDS WITH FUCKING NARRATION FROM THE PROTAGONIST!!! (BTW, I haven’t heard of an opening narration so bad since the original theatrical cut of the first Blade Runner films in the 80s) ARE YOU MEANING TO TELL ME THERE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN A SCENE OR TWO ADDED TO TELL US WHAT THE FUCK WHAT GOING ON?!? I know there are stupid people out there that probably still wouldn’t get it after being fed the info with a silver spoon in their mouths, but when you have critic after critic after critic tearing this movie apart because they had no clue what was going on, and then I don’t get what was going on until I found an obscure article telling me what apparently the filmmakers thought I was already supposed to know…you know your movie has a giant problem.
And the giant problem is that I just didn’t care what was happening on screen because I didn’t know any of the stakes. It is just Anne Hathaway being depressed, mad, paranoid and running for her life for two hours, with Ben Affleck in what is just a glorified extended cameo where you can tell he just did it for the paycheck with his blank stare, phoned in performance. Oh, and it has Willem Dafoe for two scenes playing Hathaway’s father, where it should’ve been three or four, with a proper conclusion to his character than just “blind or you’ll miss it” dialogue explaining what happened to him. It’s all just a stupid, awful, boring, confusing mess. And the ending is laughably dumb with a slow motion shot (you’ll know it when you see it) that lasts way too long and had me laughing my ass off (I was well fed up with the film by then to the point of laughing hysterically). Why did Netflix purchase this film to stream on its platform knowing how bad it was? Whatever film festival is debut in January, the reviews were all terrible, does Netflix really have all that cash to waste on a project like this? Maybe it’s because of their relationship with Dee Rees and her successful Mudbound movie a couple of years ago? Who knows, but this film should’ve never seen the light of day unless there happened to have been extensive re shoots where audiences could figure out what the fuck was going on the entire two hours. The last thing I wanted was to watch a film as bad as this. Should’ve trusted the other reviews on this one. Do yourself a favor and trust mine.